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Nano Tech—Big for Thermoplastics?

Although people—mainly people at plastics companies—have been talking about polymers replacing metals in auto applications for years, the results have not exactly been as expected.

Although people—mainly people at plastics companies—have been talking about polymers replacing metals in auto applications for years, the results have not exactly been as expected. However, this may change to a notable degree thanks to the use of nanotechnology. To be more specific, this isn’t exactly a metal replacement inasmuch as DuPont Engineering Polymers (www.usa.dupont.com), Morph Technologies, Integran Technologies (www.integran.com; Morph is a part of Integran), and PowerMetal Technologies (www.powermetalinc.com) have announced is a nanocrystalline metal/polymer hybrid technology. The companies have formed an alliance which will be working to proliferating thermoplastic materials with this technology. Called “MetaFuse,” the materials are based on DuPont polymers onto which nano-crystalline nickel or nickel-iron are applied. The resulting material can be used to produce lightweight components of complex shapes that have the stiffness or magnesium or aluminum but with higher strength. Among the potential automotive applications for the materials are: the accelerator pedal, brake pedal, steering wheel column, fuel rail, fuel sender flange, and oil pan. According to a DuPont spokesman, they’re looking for applications that are more complex than large, simple stamped steel parts and that don’t necessarily lend themselves to plastic applications due to functional requirements.—GSV